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Tuesday, June 15, 2004

What it was was slaughterball….
There’s been a lot of interest lately in the game of dodge ball, a lot of that thanks to the Ben Stiller movie coming out Friday about the game. Seeing the preview, I felt sure that this whole thing was just something Stiller embellished for the humor factor. Well, that was until I saw an article about competitive professional dodge ball in this morning’s Tennessean.

Yes, I was as stunned as you are.

But all this interesting in the game of dodge ball has set me on a trip down memory lane—to my teenage years. I was living in northern California at the time and starting that wonderful journey known as the teenage years. Part of the privilege was being part of the youth group at church. I’d been anticipating this for years since it always seemed the youth were doing something fun—whether it be going hiking or staying out all night at a Lock-In or just going places without your parents. The unlimited freedom of being dropped off and without parental influence for two hours—well, it was just nothing short of magical.

The church we attended was a small one, and thus the youth group was rather small. Not that it really mattered. We were the youth group and I felt this entitled me to some level of being considered “cool.” Whether or not I was actually cool (OK, I was a youth who watched Star Trek and then later discovered the insanity that is Doctor Who…you do the math on whether or not I was cool or even within five miles of the border leading up to cool.), I'm not really sure about. But the thing was--I felt like I was cool.

Now, powers wiser than us felt in order we youth not to be totally warped, we needed to have both a male leader and a female leader. The male leader was pretty much set—it was Tom Anderson, an older man with a Scottish accent who ruled with an iron fist. Well, that and the threat of a snuggie. You may not know exactly what a snuggie is—it’s basically a weedgie, only far more intimidating. You did something stupid such as smarting off to Tom, breathing the wrong way, etc and you were quickly running to avoid the humiliation of having your underwear grabbed and pulled up in places it’s not really supposed to go. And don’t even get me started on the horrors of the double snuggie—wherein both sides were pulled up. I still wonder about my ability to have children to this day thanks to the horror that was a double snuggie. But for all of this threats and blustering, Tom really loved all the youth. He’d have to to put up with us not only at youth meetings on Thursday nights but also as our Sunday School teacher.

Somehow we’d managed to run off the previous female leader—I’m not sure exactly how. I was relatively new to the group at this point and wasn’t sure of the entire story. Part of it was that the previous leader had her first child and wanted to spend more time with the child. But I really think the bigger part of it was that she saw us play Slaughter Ball a couple of times and had to go into therapy for it. Anyway, we were set to get a new female leader—this after months of searching. Her name was Deborah and not only had she volunteered to take us on as a leader, she’s offered to have her first night be without Tom there to keep us in check.

Not that we hadn’t been warned, mind you. We were all under threat of the worst double snuggy you’d ever experienced should Debby report back anything amiss.

Now, at the time, the youth group was kind of small. And it was mostly guys. So, without any girls around for us to try to impress, we were pretty much a bunch of hooligans. But then again, Tom had warned us. And he had the threat.

It was a warm summer evening and Debby came. There weren’t very many of us—it may have just been Joshua, the minister’s son, Greg and myself. We were standing around and Debby came over, trying to break the ice. We talked back and forth, sort of testing each other, seeing what we were getting into .

Then Debby made her first mistake. “So, what do you guys want to do?” she asked.

Josh and I looked at each other, an evil gleam in our eyes. We looked to Greg, who had the same grin on his face.

“We could play Slaughter Ball,” Josh said.

“OK, as long as Tom wouldn’t mind,” Debby said.

“Oh, he lets us play all the time,” said Greg.

OK, so it was stretching the truth a bit. Yes, Tom let us play Slaughter Ball. But he never let us play unlimited amounts. We got to play for a few minutes but it was heavily supervised by Tom and kept in line by the always imminent threat of a snuggie (have I mentioned they’re painful yet?). But we’d never had so much time stretching before us to play. We were excited.

The church we attended was a small one and it had a nice fellowship hall with lots of windows in it. Sliding glass doors actually. And it had this wonderful stripe down the middle of it—almost as if God had told the architects to make this room the perfect place to play SlaughterBall.

Now, Slaughter Ball was just like dodge ball only more intense. Hence the name Slaughter Ball. Your goal was to hurl the ball at opponents and try and get them out. Of course, if they caught the ball you were out. So, you pretty much were hurling it as hard as you could at legs, head, etc. Pretty much anywhere you couldn’t catch the ball. The game was pretty brutal at times—so brutal that we had to put folding chairs in front of the windows to ensure we didn’t break any of them. Now, hurling a ball at others at insane speed with closed folding chairs in front of windows—you’re gonna have a lot of noise and chairs falling down. It’s going to basically be a huge racket and the thought of—dear God, they’re breaking the entire church.

Now, Tom was used to this. Debby wasn’t.

And we played. Oh how we played. It was intense. We got hot and sweaty. It was just one of those games that they are probably still talking about on a sports call in show somewhere. I remember the chairs crashing and windows getting hit, spectacular falls and poor Debby standing in the side of the fellowship hall, paler than the white walls. She was pretty much one step from being called home. And, of course, we were having a blast.

As far as we were concerned, she was the best counselor we’d have had and we wanted to keep her until the end of time, if not beyond.

Well, that is, until Sunday when Tom found out what we’d been up to. Let’s just say I didn’t get much out of the lesson that day—I was too busy pulling underwear out of places it shouldn’t have been after not one but two double snuggies. Josh and Greg suffered the same fate as well.

But looking back, I have to admit, it was all worth it.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/15/2004 09:35:00 PM | |
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